Saturday marked the 15 year anniversary of Empowered Women International, a non-profit devoted to giving refugee, immigrant, and at-risk women social and economic stability through entrepreneurship training. On a daily basis, I have the privilege of being their spokeswoman and sharing the wonderful things they are accomplishing in various circles.
On Saturday I had the opportunity to moderate a panel of EWI graduate entrepreneurs Floralba Camargo, Rana Jaafar Yaseen, Chithra Jeyaram, and local entrepreneurs Jennifer Lubrani Cisneros, Kate Glantz, and Julia Westfall. I was incredibly excited to help the panelists share what it really means to be a woman entrepreneur, the challenges they face, the positive impacts on their family, and why supporting women entrepreneurs matters on a local and global level.
One of the things I love most about all-women panels is the level of honesty. Women will candidly share their experiences and advice with the mission to help those they are speaking to. When I asked how Empowered Women International had impacted their lives, Rana bravely shared her experience as a refugee. When she first attended the EWI program she could barely speak English, and now she has a thriving consulting and media business. Floralba shared that as a single mom, becoming an entrepreneur has given her control over her finances and made her a role model for her children.
Challenges faced by these women included access to funding and business loans, giving themselves permission to try something new and outside of their comfort zone, and not limiting themselves and their success. As a champion of women entrepreneurs, I hear these same challenges discussed and debated all over Washington, D.C. and around the globe.
When I asked the panelists their favorite part of being a woman entrepreneur the responses were passionate. The words power, freedom, and control were echoed by most of the women. They also valued being able to create something and solve problems through their businesses. You could feel the energy, sincerity, and excitement in the room. Entrepreneurship had positively impacted every woman on the stage, an in turn they are positively impacting the world.
I was honored to help share their stories and insights to commemorate the amazing work being done through Empowered Women International. I was also thrilled to have my 8 year old son at the event. He is growing up surrounded by, and learning from, women entrepreneurs!